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Disclosure Packets and Resale Certificates: Statutory Updates

Since our last postings on the subject of disclosure packets, the General Assembly has adopted several minor Code changes to clarify existing provisions:

Delivery by Overnight Carrier 
The Code section providing for cancellation of the purchase agreement within a certain time period after receipt of the resale certificate / disclosure packet previously failed to mention when the purchaser could cancel if the resale certificate / disclosure packet were delivered by overnight delivery service. For both property owners’ associations (“POAs”) and condominium associations, whether self-managed or professionally managed, if the resale certificate / disclosure packet is delivered by commercial overnight delivery service, the purchaser may cancel the contract within three days after receiving it.

The seller or the seller’s authorized agent may choose whether a resale certificate / disclosure packet will be delivered in hard copy or electronically. Such request and instructions must be stated in writing.

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Disclosure Packets and Resale Certificates Revisited: Recent Statutory Amendments

Bills recently passed in the Virginia General Assembly extend the list of items for inclusion in property owners’ association disclosure packets and condominium association resale certificates, and also broaden non-association disclosure requirements.  Effective July 1, 2013, disclosure packets may or must (depending on the item) include the following new items:

 Restrictions on Solar Panels (HB 2305): Disclosure statements for lots within property owners’ associations and resale certificates for condominiums must include a statement setting forth any restriction, limitation, or prohibition on the right of a unit owner or lot owner to install or use solar energy collection devices on the owner’s property or unit. Va. Code §§ 55-79.97(C)(17), 55-509.5(A)(12).

Further, Va. Code  § 55-519(B)(9) provides that the disclosure form required under the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act (a Virginia law that spells out, among other things, certain disclosures that most sellers of property must provide, regardless of whether the property is within a community association) must include language to notify purchasers that by delivering the residential property disclosure statement, the owner makes no representations with respect to any right to install or use solar energy collection devices on the property.

Of course, it is always incumbent on the purchaser to read the declaration, bylaws, and rules and regulations for a community association to determine whether the association has established any restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of placement of solar energy collection devices; or, for an association with a restrictive covenant adopted prior to July 1, 2008, any restriction or prohibition on the installation or use of a solar collection device. 

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Will Your Association "Fly" Into Trouble With the New Virginia Flag Law?

 

In a post several months ago, we noted the General Assembly’s adoption of amendments to the Property Owners’ Association Act and the Condominium Act that address associations' ability to regulate the display of the United States flag.  As we reported then, the amended Virginia Code sections (Va. Code § 55-513.1 [POAs] and § 55-79.75:2 [Condos]) follow the language of the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, signed into law on July 24, 2006. It provides that no association (POA or condominium) shall prohibit an owner from displaying the U.S. flag on his own property (lot or unit) as long as the display conforms to federal law, rule or custom.  You can find the official rules governing flag display in Title 4, Chapter 1 at the U.S. House of Representatives' website at http://uscode.house.gov/uscode-cgi/fastweb.exe?search.

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Virginia's New Law on Flag Restrictions: An Overview

The General Assembly recently adopted amendments to the Property Owners’ Association Act and the Condominium Act that address associations' ability to regulate the display of the United States flag.  The amended Virginia Code sections follow the language of the U.S. Code (The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005), which is the federal law regarding the U.S. flag in Title 4, Chapter 1.  POA and condominium boards and managers, and declarants and their attorneys who are preparing covenants and rules for POAs and condominiums, need to be aware of the new law.  The amendments to Va. Code Sec. 55-79.75:2 of the Condominium Act and Va. Code Sec. 55-513.1 of the POA Act are essentially the same, so I will discuss them together.

The new law provides that no association (POA or Condominium) shall prohibit an owner from displaying the U.S. flag on his own property (lot or unit) as long as the display conforms to federal law, rule or custom.  You can find the official rules governing flag display in Title 4, Chapter 1 at the U.S. House of Representatives' website ( http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml).  (There are also several helpful non-governmental sites run by non-profit organizations that you can find by performing an internet search of "flag protocol.")  However, an association may continue to "establish reasonable restrictions as to the size, place, duration, and manner of placement or display of the flag on such property provided such restrictions are necessary to protect a substantial interest of the (unit owners') association."

In addition, be aware that, in any legal action brought by an association for violation of a community flag restriction, the association bears the burden of proving in court that its restrictions as to size, place, duration, and manner of placement are necessary to protect a substantial interest of the association.  Therefore, these criteria should be carefully considered when drafted, and existing regulations should be evaluated to ensure they protect your association's substantial interests.  If not, you may want to consider amending or revoking them.

Associations may continue to restrict the display of flags in the common elements/areas of the community, but any limited common element (i.e. any area over which an owner has "exclusive possession or use"), such as, for example, typically a unit's balcony or porch, should be treated the same as the lot or unit with respect to flag display. 

Remember that POAs must disclose any community restrictions regarding flag display in the disclosure packet.  If an association fails to do so and then brings an action against a homeowner for flag display in violation of the association's rules and/or covenants, the homeowner can assert as a defense that the required disclosure was not contained within the disclosure packet.

Disclosure Packets and Financial Updates

We received the following question relating to disclosure packets and financial updates: Va. Code § 55-509.9 provides that settlement agents may request escrow instructions from the disclosure packet preparer, who would be the association manager in the case of a professionally managed association. No fee may be charged for escrow instructions, whereas an association manager may charge a $50 fee for a financial update. Settlement agents and other parties involved in the sale of a property (e.g. real estate agents) regularly request written confirmation of outstanding assessments, special assessments, HOA insurance coverage, insurance agent contact information, etc. Since this information is in the disclosure packet already provided, does this information qualify as a “financial update” for which a fee may be charged? Is there a definition of what is included in a settlement agent request that is not subject to a fee and one that is?

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POA Disclosure Packets Webinar -- Q&A Follow-up

Thank you to all those who participated in our March 31st webinar on POA Disclosure Packets. To follow up, the following are answers to those questions you submitted that were left unanswered at the end of the program. Thank you for your insightful questions!

Q. Is HB 702, the new law regarding time of payment for disclosure packets (effective July 1, 2010), applicable to professionally managed associations as well as self-managed associations? 

A. The new law will apply only to self-managed associations. For the time being, professionally-managed associations should continue to ensure that fees for disclosure packets are collected at settlement.

Q. Must a copy of an insurance document or certificate for the Association be included in the disclosure packet, or only a notation of the coverage amount?

A. The disclosure packet must include a "statement setting forth what insurance coverage is provided for all lot owners by the association, including the fidelity bond maintained by the association, and what additional insurance would normally be secured by each individual lot owner." A document from the insurance company is not required.

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Upcoming Webinar on POA Disclosure Packets

This Wednesday, March 31st, LeClairRyan's Community Association Industry Team will be hosting a free webinar entitled "What You Need to Know About Property Owner Association Disclosure Packets."

On Wednesday from noon to 1 P.M. EST, attorneys Lori Schweller and Liz White will discuss the Virginia Property Owners' Association Act's requirements, including when disclosure packets are required, who is responsible for requesting and providing them, what they should include, the costs of producing them, and the ramifications of non-compliance.

If you haven't already registered for this free event, click here to register now.

Property Listings & Residential Purchase Agreement: How to Check the Right Box

Anyone selling a lot or home that is part of a Property Owners’ Association (POA) is responsible for providing potential lot purchasers with information about the POA, referred as a “disclosure packet.” Sellers rely on their associations to provide complete and current disclosure packets to prospective purchasers. If a POA is managed by a POA manager, the POA’s contract with the manager typically gives the manager this responsibility. 

It’s not always obvious that a property is or is not part of a POA, so it’s a good idea for the seller to know and to share this information with his realtor. A purchaser’s first clue that a property is part of a POA comes from the property listing prepared by the seller’s realtor. And, of course, the residential purchase contract must disclose whether or not the property is part of a POA. 

Unfortunately, sometimes sellers and realtors are not sure which box to check when preparing property listings and residential contracts. To avoid unintentional misrepresentation, here are some guidelines from the Virginia Code:

The Virginia POA Act does not apply to every subdivision subject to a recorded declaration. It applies only to “developments” (a defined term) subject to a “declaration” (another defined term) initially recorded after January 1, 1959 and to subdivisions created under the former Subdivided Land Sales Act (§ 55-536 et seq.), which is superseded by the POA Act.

The following five elements must be present for a “development”:

  1. lots, at least some of which are
  2. residential or recreational;
  3. common area;
  4. automatic membership in an association; and
  5. (potential) obligation to pay assessments.

And, a “declaration” must do one or both of the following:

  1. impose responsibilities on the association to maintain or operate the common area; and/or
  2. give the association authority to impose on lots or their owners a mandatory obligation to pay money in connection with such responsibilities. (I stress “authority” because sometimes an association may have the authority but not have a regular assessment in place.)

So, even if a neighborhood looks like a development and is subject to a recorded declaration, it is not a “development” for purposes of the Property Owners Association Act unless each lot owner is a member of an association, the association has a duty to maintain common area, and the declaration gives the association the power to charge mandatory assessments against the lot owner.